The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland, the new hexagonal game about the war from 1978-1979 between Uganda and Tanzania. Not that this is a particularly complex game, and is very long. It runs about 90 minutes, enough to change sides and play again.

The board shows a map of Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin Dada, with one player on each side of the conflict. For eight months, the two countries fought a war that eventually led to the flight from the country of Idi Amin. Each turn represents one month of real time. Other nations such as Libya and Mozambique to join one side or the other, the new recruits come on board. Tanzanians come across a narrow strip of territory on the southern tip, and have a need to capture a couple of key to winning cities. Uganda has to endure long enough to keep Tanzania invaded by them. Supplies are a constant factor for both parties, but in his country Ugandans are rarely excasos resources. Tanzanians have the numerical advantage, however, not have the resources to feed themselves through territory and take quickly.

The Last King of Scotland, map
The Last King of Scotland, map

Although this is clearly a war game hexagonal counter, a couple of good design choices make everything more efficient. First, the variety of units is rather low. The differences are expressed exclusively in numbers over the counter, so it is easy to evaluate the troop strength. Large units such as armor and artillery special dice roll hit on a lower number. It’s all very clear and quick to learn. Another good measure is that the units are either on the board or killed. The only condition to worry about is whether a unit is out of the game or not, meaning that this supply route is interrupted and the unit will be severely hobbled if struggle. It is a long way to go to make the game less intimidating.

This is not a game for those who do not like the dice. I pitched battles in some 11-12 of them to determine the outcome. Even stronger is the initiative roll each turn. That is a particularly strong swing, but I’m fine with that because I like dice games.

The Last King of Scotland, components
The Last King of Scotland, components

The Last King of Scotland is a compelling game, cleverly designed. Despite my almost total lack of experience in war games, he was quickly brought into the conflict. I struggled to learn to use the land and my units. The map shows some points that were a delight to discover. My biggest concern was that it would get in the game and setirme totally lost, but I did not have to worry.

And apart from developing an understanding of tactics, I met a lot of fun too. This is due in part to the rhythm that the clips along very well. Tanzanians feel they have to race against time and the Ugandans are just outnumbered. There is good stress and pressure on each side, and while you might find that pressure a bit strenuous in a party of four hours, in a 90-minute experience fast-paced as it works very well.

The simplicity and the fast pace means that fits my personality and style of play too. And I just had a good time, which is perhaps what impresses me.

The Last King of Scotland, tabs
The Last King of Scotland, tabs

The mounted board fits like a puzzle, and it feels great. Graphically the game is just great, clean and easy to read. It is not at all difficult to handle the cards, as they are thick and rounded. My biggest complaint in the production goes to the rules, a particular bugaboo I have with VPG. This time, the problem is compounded by the fact that this is the first in a series of games in African wars. That means that the first half is rules for the entire series, the second half is specific rules for this iteration. That makes it look anything up to a kind of headache, although it’ll be nice to future installments.

If you’ve always been a little curious about trying wargames, The Last King of Scotland is a great game to start. It’s intuitive, clean and fast and looks good, better than most war games. It is also relatively cheap at around 35 €. And perhaps most interesting, now I have a fascinating historical insight into a little known war. It can never become a dedicated wargamer, but this game shows me the appeal of piles of counters on a small map.

Game Type Wargame
Recommended Age +13 years
Language English
Players 1 – 2 Players
Game Time 90 minutes
Difficulty Hight